As we continue to shine a light on countries working diligently to grow the game, we now take a deeper look into lacrosse in Sweden.
Below is our conversation with Tom Robson of Sweden Lacrosse.
Sweden Lacrosse: Past, Present & Future
Lacrosse began to be played in Sweden in 1988. Jim Johnson, an immigrant American, brought the sport to Sweden and gathered a bunch of happy enthusiasts who started training lacrosse in Stockholm. In 1992, the first-ever Swedish championships took place among four men’s teams playing in the Stockholm area. By 1994, Sweden was able to field its first men’s team at the World Championships.
Since the early ’90s, there has also been an active women’s team training in Stockholm. It first competed internationally at the 1997 Women’s European Championships. The first-ever youth national championships were held in Linkoping in 2018, for U16 boys, and now Sweden is preparing to enter a men’s U21 squad to the 2022 World Championships in Ireland.
Sweden has a men’s and women’s field program as well as men’s box national teams. We play our Swedish Lacrosse League (SLL) with Sixes rules and our Swedish national championships with traditional field rules. As of 2022, we will have a U21 Men’s National Team for the first time.
How many players are registered in your country?
Today we have 11 registered lacrosse clubs throughout the country with more than 300 collective members.
What do you want the world to know about lacrosse in your country?
The future is bright for Sweden Lacrosse. Over the past few years, there has been a larger push to develop the sport at the youth level. For the first time ever, we have multiple teams throughout the country that are recruiting and training both boys and girls U16 teams to begin to train high-level lacrosse athletes in Sweden, all in hopes to spread to sport. The first wave of our efforts is now gearing up for the task at the 2022 U21 Men’s World Championships in Ireland.
What events do you plan to play in over the next 12 months?
The U21 Men’s Team has joined the SLL for 2021, so we will compete against five other men’s teams throughout the country. The finals for the league will be held on September 26. We will also play in the 2021 Scheider Cup in Germany on October 9-10 en route to the 2022 Men’s U21 World Championships in Ireland.
What ways do you spread the game and educate people about lacrosse in your country?
Some of the clubs around the country host summer sports camps for new young players. Myself, I am a PE teacher in Lund who includes lacrosse in my curriculum to introduce students to the sport. Once young people show more interest, they are automatically invited to national camps hosted by the SNTDP (Swedish National Team Development Program) regardless of skill level. This gives them more playing opportunities to grow their game.
What do you want lacrosse to look like in your country in 10 years? How do you plan on getting there?
In 10 years we want to have national teams filled with elite lacrosse players who grew up training in Sweden. We want our club programs to flourish with quality players who continue to help train the next wave of young lacrosse players in Sweden.
If we continue to recruit players at a younger age, provide them with elite development opportunities, such as the U21 national camps, we believe we can reach that level in 10 years.
Would lacrosse being in the Olympics help with the growth of the sport in your nation?
Lacrosse is extremely unknown in Sweden, and I routinely have to explain to the local communities exactly what we are playing. Lacrosse in the Olympics would help us in recruiting by skipping the initial explanation step, allowing us to get right into playing with interested athletes.
We have borrowed the framework for a national team development program from USA Hockey and have created the SNTDP. The SNTDP works with all lacrosse players in Sweden under the age of 20 to help them improve their game and get to the next level. The SNTDP runs youth lacrosse camps for all U20 players in Sweden and compiles rosters for key events such as the SLL games and the Scheider Cup in Germany.
We are very proud of the initial success of this program. It allows us to give more playing opportunities to our young players, offer them higher-level training and coaching, and lets us to select the top players to represent us in key events.